We all know the physical health benefits of exercising. Weight loss, weight maintenance, strong hearts, increased energy levels and flexibility. The psychological benefits of fitness, however, are limitless. As someone that suffers from Severe Depressive Disorder, I relish in the benefits of physical exercise. This wasn’t always the case, but once I made a plan and found what worked for me, I have never looked back.
As a woman in today’s society, self-esteem is a quality that is always changing for the good and for the bad. We all see the commercials and the advertisements. And while society is getting better at recognizing that a healthy body does not always mean a size 5 in a dress or jeans, it is still and will always be a struggle.
Those wonderful things called endorphins
When exercising, our bodies release these fabulous chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are what many people refer to as a “runner’s high”. They help you feel positive and energized. Endorphins are one’s own personal euphoric drug. So, in other words, endorphins can be the best friend you have ever had!
So, why is an exercise regimen so great for women (and men) with depression? Well, I don’t know about you, but stress, anxiety, work, home, family, money and everything else that requires adult decision making can be a real downer. Especially when they all seem to go south at the same time (and let’s face it, they ALL plan their vacations to happen together). But getting out and working that body, heart and brain can have such an amazing impact.
And those endorphins that you get from that workout are like free medication! We all read everywhere about how exercise is one of the most effective, yet most underused treatment for mild to moderate depression. And, in my case, when I run in the gorgeous outside world with my headphones blasting some good music, it can be the best therapist no money needs to actually buy. I cry, laugh, reason and even adjust my plans that I may have made for a project while in the confines of work. I can push myself and I can even push back against myself without anyone judging me.
Motivation through a group
Exercise groups can be an additional fantastic kick to depression as well. People to motivate you, push you, and cheer you on and release even more of those feel good endorphins and prolong that feeling of accomplishment. Emotional comfort is always a good part of working through depression and other mental health disorders. And with the wonders of the internet, you can even find fitness groups online to keep in touch with to help with motivation. The biggest thing to remember is that you will not be the only one who is in a group who experiences depression, anxiety or any other issue. There are plenty of us out there.
Exercising just 20 to 30 minutes three times a week can get you started, and maybe even maintain what you seek, if it is a workout that works for you. But always remember to listen to your body. Do not continue if anything is painful simply because those endorphins feel good. And while endorphins can offer some pain relief qualities similar to that of morphine, they are not meant to solve any physical pain. So check with you doctor and see where they recommend you begin, if you are just starting out. Set small goals to just get moving. Don’t try to start off as if you are going to solve all of your issues within the first week. As with anything, patience will help you prevail.
So get out, get moving and release those little chemical friends. Try yoga, Tai Chi, take a dance class, get into the pool, and get out with that pup that could also benefit from some movement. Depression likes to try to get the best of some of us, but we have an endless tray of a la carte options to really show it who is in charge!